The Brackenridge is an undergraduate research fellowship in the Honors College at the University of Pittsburgh. It’s basis is on interdisciplinary communication and research dissemination to the public. I was fortunate enough to be awarded one of these fellowships this past semester and learned so much not only about myself but also about my project. (I want to quickly mention..I was the first student in the School of Nursing at Pitt to be awarded this fellowship which draws light on the lack of nursing researchers. I personally feel it is extremely crucial for nurses to be involved in research as we bring with us a unique perspective and potentially a more insightful translational approach to disseminate our studies. Definitely hoping to inspire more nursing students to become involved in research as I work with the School of Nursing and the Honors College at Pitt. It certainly isn’t easy, but it is well worth it!)
For those of you who don’t know, my research focuses on type 2 diabetes and the gut microbiome. This complex interaction is a hot area of research related to future therapeutic treatments for diabetes management and care. Research which has this expanded reach and clinical implication is known as translational research and allows for a connection between research findings and the impact they may have. This is by no means limited to clinical research as I study, many other projects focus on anthropology, psychology, literature, and more. It’s significantly harder than it may sound as you increase your expertise in your topic and field and have to bring it back down to a generally understandable level for individuals who aren’t experts in your area. The fellowship provides the opportunity to disseminate your research and learn effective ways to communicate with a diverse audience. This forces you to simplify your project into more understandable terms in order to amplify its effectiveness and expand its reach into the community.
It accomplishes this in the format of two presentations to your fellow fellows (ha ha). First, you have a ten minute presentation in the beginning of the term to introduce your project and at the end, a thirty minute presentation to explain your findings. Not only do the presentations help you to realize what it’s like to speak about your project to those who don’t specialize in your field, but it also allows you to see potential flaws in your design and consider aspects you previously hadn’t thought of. You learn how to ask meaningful questions on presentations which focus on topics you aren’t familiar with and how to field questions directed at you by others. These questions helped me to improve my own dissemination techniques and learn how to build a strong presentation which captures the attention of my audience. Furthermore, some questions on why I chose the methods I did and why I chose what I did for various other components of my study made me reflect – I had to ask myself the same question. I was then able to come back and firmly understand and reason why I did what I did.
While I had a lot going on in my classes and personal life and I was unable to accomplish as much as I had hoped, this semester provided the time for crucial work which helped to lie the foundation for my project. I learned a lot about myself, my project, and overall finding balance with this fellowship. This opportunity provided more than I had ever hoped or anticipated and I highly recommend participating in an interdisciplinary fellowship to anyone and everyone in research. Stay tuned for future reflections on the Honors College Health Sciences Fellowship and the Summer Undergraduate Research Program Internship, both of which I’m participating in this summer!
Special thanks to the University Honors College, Dr. Peter Koehler, Dr. Cecelia Yates, Dr. Nahed Ismail, and all the fellows I got to work alongside.